Mar 16, 2018

More Than Michelin Stars - Shoun RyuGin 祥雲龍吟

Taiwan finally got its own Michelin stars. Despite the pros and cons about this rating system, it's still a nice way to showcase the world of what Taiwan has to offer.

Luckily I had a chance to dine at Shoun RyuGin just few months before its Michelin fame starts to spread. It was a birthday celebration dinner for Mister, and indeed a memorable meal that not only satisfy our palates, but also our hearts.

In the beginning, Mister thought I was bringing him to RAW, another famed restaurant in Taiwan that happened to locate in the same building.

But of course I'm not going to give away the answer easily, so we took the elevator up to the 5th floor.

Mister could never guess this place. Shoun RyuGin, somewhat like a mixture of kaiseki ryori with a Taiwanese touch. It wasn't that famous back then, at least compared to RAW.

We arrived a little bit early and took some time taking pictures by the door. Just when we were about finished, the maître d' came out and led us to the resting area.

Welcomed by a cup of Taiwan Tieguanyin tea, calmed down our over-excited mood and ready for the meal ahead. 

Short moment passed, we were guided to our table.

When making a reservation, I mentioned that I'm going to take some pictures, so requested for a corner table if possible in the hope that my big camera will not cause troubles for other guests.

So pictures are ok here, just stay as low-key as possible and definitely no flashlights.

Food-wise, Shoun RyuGin is definitely up there, but that night was also a feast for our eyes. Carefully prepared tableware like pieces of art, with different texture and temperature, they further translated what chef had in mind into our hands.  

Roselle garnish on the table -

It was in season during early wintertime in Taiwan, so why not garnish the table with local grown Roselle?

Restaurant checked on food preferences and allergies when making a reservation, also asked if it was for some type of celebration. Per my case, it was a birthday dinner for my hard working Mister.

A text message reminder was also sent the day before the meal.

See that little "4" marked on the postage? It resembles that Shoun RyuGin is moving towards its forth year in the business.

Simple information about the ingredients used for the night's meal. Some ingredients used were marked on the map of Taiwan, where they were sourced. As chef Ryohei Hieda spending more time in Taiwan, the more knowledge and understanding he gained regarding what this little island has to offer. Up till the time I dined there, about 90% of the ingredients used were sourced locally.

Even as a local born Taiwanese like me had no idea how many wonderful ingredients we have and the possibilities they carry. Through chef's skills and creations, it truly brought me to a deeper understanding of local grown jewels.

Waitress asked again if we have any food allergies after presenting the menu. 

Some wine pairing options -

Besides the famous Juyondai sake pairing, there were also wine/sake pairing and tea pairing. I was torn apart between wine/sake pairing and tea pairing. Rarely do I have an occasion to try out tea pairing, but since it was my first visit, I still went ahead and chose the more common route.

Until next time, I will pick tea pairing without a second thought.

Put the beverages aside, Shoun RyuGin also offers many types of water. First, choose natural or sparkling water. As for natural water, there were four variations and provided with country of origin and hardness level.

A cup of cold Roselle tea to gently brighten up the senses first -

First wine pairing -

Yes, Taiwan has its own aged sparkling wine too! Traditional bottle fermentation and aged for 18 months. The waitress said that chef fell in love with its distinct hawthorn berry scent right away. It was also Mister's favorite wine of the night.

First course: Spot crab, potato, caviar -

Spot crab broth and smoked potato puree underneath. The saltiness mainly coming from the caviar. Took a bite, that saltiness was gently covered by the smooth crab aroma. Then it came a slight punch from the smoked potato puree.

Usually potato puree is blended with creamy ingredients. Changing that creaminess with seafood umami, then it somewhat describes how amazing this potato puree was.

Second course: Clam, sweet potato leaves, lemon -

Talking about umami earlier, this one definitely was an umami bomb. Just a crunchy thin later of potato leaf to hold up all these juicy clams. The satisfaction is like munching on a Taiwanese fried snack from a night market, but of course a much more sophisticated version.

Just when you think this course was finished, a brush of citrusy acidity came through, the whole combo just went up another level again.

And here came the fun part -

Pick the one that sang to you.

The cup will be used to serve the second pairing of the night, Juyondai honmaru honjozo sake -

Melon aroma was the key here.

This Juyondai was used to pair with our third course: Eel, egg; fig, miso, pine nut -

Fuller bite from the eel, almost like eating chicken. The sauce above was made of egg yolk and lemon. 

The fig dish got a heavier note of Japanese seasoning. Topped with miso pine nut sauce. A mix between sweet and saltiness. 

Frankly speaking, I didn't care much about the fig dish. Not my type of sweet and savory combo, but I can see why it was paired with Juyondai sake, that light fruity aroma rang together like a planned orchestra.

Forth course: Tile fish, mushroom, Buddha's hand citron -

Underneath the lid was the dragon pattern designed by chef -

Stock was prepared with fish bones, and the mushroom was cooked shabu style. What permeated the whole thing was an almost airy sweet note from Buddha's hand citron. 

This soup warmed up my body softly and gently. It might appear light and pale, but in fact packed with delicate aroma, but with just the right amount. A little bit extra will tip off the balance of this dish. Very comforting in a slow-moving way.

Another round of glass picking, this time with much more flamboyant colors -

But Mister picked a clean and white glass instead - 

Third wine pairing, sake specially made for the restaurant - 

Fifth course: Sail fish, sea perch, squid, sweet shrimp -

What a cute presentation!

A variety of sashimi was placed above Taiwan abalone shells stacked up into a shape of Taiwan. Well, a chubbier Taiwan. 

Sail fish was suggested to be eaten last since it went through extra smoking process, got a stronger scent.

After few bites, I wondered. If it wasn't shown on the menu, will the guests ever guess that this wonderful seafood were sourced locally?

Fourth wine pairing - 

2015 Domaine de Villaine Burgundy Bouzeron/Aligoté.

Also Sawanohana Beau Michelle sake -

Upon my first sip, wow, such a sweet sake! But soon flowed with rice aroma. How well can this sake pair with our fish course coming next? I was quite curious. 

Sixth course: Butterfish, crown daisy, mullet roe -

The fish was prepared by grilling and covering with stock at the same time. In a way not as over-powering as simple grilling. Underneath the fish were tong ho and shiso, two aromatic greens familiar in Asian countries.

And there's this salty, soft, and sticky mullet roe, truly paired well with that sweet sake. Took a look at my Burgundy white, which paired perfectly with the fish.

What sommelier wanted to express was how well these two contrasting drinks could match with the same dish. A fun way to proceed with food pairings, and a great experience for the guests. 

Seventh course: Ox tongue, radish, magou -

Thinly sliced ox tongue was cooked first under 60 degrees Celsius, and finished cooking tableside by pouring the warm stock over. 

There were also chrysanthemum petals and grilled corns in the juicy dish.

I didn't call it a soup dish. Waitress specially reminded us that this was a saltier broth and if preferred, simply treat it as a dipping sauce. But of course I devoured the whole thing. It was just like a Taiwanese beef broth but came with many more layers of aroma. Magou, a type of local peppercorn mostly used by Taiwan aboriginal people, has a bright and almost minty aroma, truly characterized this comforting course. 

Sixth wine pairing - 

2003 Nicolas Potel Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Malconsorts.

The bottle was opened the day before to let it breathe. Filled with plum-like dark colored fruity aroma.

Eighth course: Squab, rosemary -

Chef incorporates one squab dish every season. Thanks to him, I never know Taiwan has such high quality squab. Plump and juicy.

So for the breast, the meat was grilled then perfumed with hay and rosemary. The leg was fried instead. 

A piece of charcoal was hidden underneath the breast, so that grassy aroma lingers throughout the course due to heat. A feast to the nose too.

It has that slight bitter note similar to chicken liver, well surrounded by crispy thin skin, all the great wine food elements packed in this dish.  

Halt the wine, here it came Kyoto bancha -

Ninth course: Koshi-hikari rice, clam, green onion, tomato -

By the time we came to our ninth course, three hours passed by. Prolonged dining time made me feel full easily. 

Tableside service. Our waitress moved the clams aside and scooped the rice for us. Even though Shoun RyuGin doesn't let customers take the meals home, but this rice dish is ok. Rubbing my tummy, I had to bring the leftover rice home.

Please do come here with someone you can talk to. Otherwise these three hours are going to feel like forever.  

Soup and tsukemono were also served along with the rice.

After finished tsukemono, found out that it was plated above such beauty - 

About time for dessert, but first we got our new hot hand towels and bancha got changed to Kyoto green tea -

Tenth course: Chestnut, chocolate -

Light milk chocolate ice cream in the center. The chestnuts were cooked with brown sugar whisky and the chocolate was flavored with magou.

The texture of the chestnuts was so fluffy. Just fell apart without much pressure. Along with ice cream, all the elements went down my throat smoothly. 

Eleventh course: Passion fruit -

Well, the upper part was passion fruit alright, but the bottom half was actually brown sugar tapioca and pudding. That cooked sugary aroma accompanying boba chewiness, what a great way to represent one of Taiwan's beloved sweets - boba.

Extra longan dessert -

Came with a bundle but only two were truly our bonus mini mochi sweets.

Also a bonus pairing from the sommelier -

2009 Domdechant Werner Riesling Auslese.

How come he knew I love Riesling?

Sugar apple! 

Another surprise. I mentioned that this dinner was for Mister's birthday celebration, so instead of cake, they brought us this sugar apple.

Just kidding, it was actually more like a slush made with sugar apple and pear. Even though it was just something extra as a good gesture from the restaurant, a lot of work still put into making this celebration treat for us.

Four hours passed, a memorable four hours meal. Chef came by the entrance and greeted us as we left for the night. To be honest, Michelin or not, Shoun RyuGin was already that star in my mind. 

A little information about making reservation at Shoun RyuGin. Deposit for 50% of the meal fee are required for first-timers. Reservations for the following month are opened a month before. For instance, if I would like to make a reservation for 4/10, then I can start calling the restaurant after 3/1. 

I'm a total pro-deposit type of diner. Especially for such high-end restaurant, think about all the resources that went into preparing one single meal. What if there's no-show? It becomes a tremendous burden for the restaurant, and thinks about all the food that went into waste?

So if paying half of the meal ahead can have any effect on preventing no-shows, personally speaking, it's totally worth it and the restaurant has every right to do so.

Shoun RyuGin 祥雲龍吟 currently holds two Michelin star status.

Shoun RyuGin 祥雲龍吟
5th Floor, No.301, Le Qun 3rd Road
Taipei, Taiwan
011 886 2 8501 5808
Facebook Page (Chinese):

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 6 p.m. ~ 11 p.m.
Sunday and national holidays off
Please also check on website for other day-offs

*Please call from 1 p.m. ~ 5 p.m. to make reservations
*Restaurant does not take phone calls during service hours